Have you ever heard of Walt Disney World’s Discovery Island? Not to be confused with the Discovery Island that is the central HUB of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme park…formerly called Safari Village. I am talking about the original Discovery Island Attraction…
This now extinct attraction was a big draw for the Walt Disney World Resort from 1974 to 1999 and was closed down after the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Discovery Island was nestled in the middle of Bay Lake, close to the Contemporary and the Fort Wilderness Campground. It could only be accessed by boat and the official sponsor was “Friskies”.
As a child, I remember trips to Discovery Island. Guests were required to park at the Fort Wilderness Resort and then take a ferry over to the Island. I hate to admit it, but I would be so disappointed to drive from the east coast of Florida all the way over to Central Florida… getting so close to the Magic Kingdom and not being able to make it in. However, once I stepped foot on the island…all that disappointment turned to joy and discovery.
There is a fantastic write-up about Disney’s Discovery Island including the history, photos, advertisements, and a map of the Island Park on the website Walt Dated World.
I found this photo and wanted to share. This is me (circa mid 80’s) and one of the fonder memories I have of Discovery Island, which was a whole lot more intimate and interactive than Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.
A Disney Souvenir Guide describes Discovery Island…
Some of natures most spectacular flora and fauna are found on Discovery Island, an 11-acre haven on Bay Lake for more than 500 rare or endangered species from around the world.
Living in a tropical rain forest is a vast array of birds, including African Crowned Cranes, flamingos and other wadding fowl, toucans, hornbills, Incubator Birds, American King Vultures, pelicans and an American Bald Eagle.
Some of the Islands zanier characters “hang out” at Coocoo Cabana – a tree-top roost for the madcap macaws and cockatoos of the “Jose Carioca Flyers”.
An elevated “birdwalk” winds through Avian Way, one of the world’s largest walk-through aviaries. It’s Rainbow Rookery hosts the largest colony of Scarlet ibis in the United States.
Earthbound creatures find sanctuary on Discovery Island too. Turtle Beach is home to Galapagos tortoises, another endangered species. Elsewhere on the island, there are American Alligators, marmosets, miniature deer and giant rabbits.
But Discovery Island is more than just a zoological wonderland, it’s a botanical marvel as well. There are more than 20 types of palm trees, ten species of bamboo, and a multitude of colorful plants brought from Argentina, Bolivia, the Canary Islands, China, the Himalayas and South Africa.
Just moments away from the mainland by motor launch, Discovery Island is a fascinating kingdom where nature reigns and you are its honored guest….
I also found two great videos on YouTube and posted them here for you as well. You can get a feel for the island. It truly was an intimate setting…
Discovery Island Video One:
Discovery Island Video Two: